Two of us with budget $200 flew from Malaysia to Vientiane, spent 8 days in the country. This budget is more than enough for a budget backpacker to have an ‘average enjoyable’ journey. Surprisingly, Laos is very clean and tidy country compare with other SEA countries, public toilets especially but you have to pay $0.20-$0.50. I am willing to pay for a clean toilet! Laos is pretty safe and locals are being honest and friendly, talk to them to know more about their culture and life.
The CURRENCY in Laos is KIP. Money changers can be found in the airport, on the street, convenience stores and guesthouses. I had compared the exchange rate in different places, Vang Vieng is the best you can get.
The ACCOMMODATION is about $4-5 for a bed, $10 for ensuite double room. For safety and security concerned, if you travel in two, get the double room, why not? Free drinking water refill in almost all the guesthouses!
The TRANSPORTATION system is connected for traveler and the price is fixed, if you get directly from the station. However, you can get ticket from travel agents and guesthouse, they charge very small amount and arrange for pick up which I think is reasonable, it is even cheaper than you go by yourself. For long distance journey, sleeping bus, mini bus/van, local buses are available. Motorbike and bicycle are good to go for short distance discovery. Free bicycle rental in some guesthouses, just ask 🙂
Laos FOOD is very typical ‘SEA’ style, noodle soup is the classic, $1-$2 per meal. You can find special local fish dishes in some restaurants.
Respect the local CULTURE, always ask for permission to take pictures, no shoes and clean foot into temples, people are kind and always being helpful without asking for a penny. So, learn at least ‘Sabaidi’ (Hello) and ‘Khawp Jai’ (Thank you) in Laos language.
Laos was in my SEA trip plan (Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar) 2 years ago but I had to cancel the ticket in very last minute because I found I need more time to explore in one place. And finally I done Laos to check my list! I love the slow pace here, everyone looks happy, it’s different from the other SEA countries.
*P/S: I met a local tour guide with good English on my way to Luang Prabang, he plans for your trip (accommodation, private car/van, meals) and he hold permit to visit some historical places, let me know if you need his contact 🙂